Review: Sausage Party

Directors: Greg Tiernan, Conrad Vernon

Stars: Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill

Imagine the life of an animator working for a major movie studio. The care, the patience, the precision, the meticulousness. It takes an admirable combination of creativity and technical skill. The work forces behind these movies are thought of with great esteem and justly so. Now imagine you’ve been assigned to the team responsible for the frame-by-frame creation of the food orgy scene that features prominently in the final act of Sausage Party, spending days, more likely weeks or even months carefully animating a frankfurter that’s penetrated not only a hotdog bun but also the centre of a bagel and is heading into a four-way that also includes a flatbread with a goatee. Day in, day out. And at the end of those long, arduous days, going home and kissing the sleeping foreheads of your children.

What happened to your career?

Sausage Party is, as one should have guessed by now, decidedly not for children. The stoned brainchild of Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and Jonah Hill, this is a foul-mouthed, bawdy adults-only alternative to the slew of family friendly CG ‘toons sweeping up the big bucks at your local multiplex.  The central conceit is that all purchasable goods in your local supermarket are sentient, living in hope of being picked by a human – a God – and taken out of the store to The Great Beyond. The reality, of course, is that only horrific consumption awaits them.

So far so Pixar – albeit with a grim line in atheism – but Rogen and co salt the recipe with as much swearing as they can muster and as many deliberate attempts at offense as one can cram into a 90 minute movie. Sausage Party wears it’s 15 certificate like a badge of honour, because isn’t it exceedingly clever to deliberately exclude the exact audience most likely to be charmed by the idea of smiling, friendly, anthropomorphised food stuffs?

Every character in Sausage Party swears relentlessly, and from the very first instance it falls flat. It isn’t funny and it isn’t clever. The very first time it occurs. And then that’s all there is; an endless slew of repeats on this blown gag. Stepping things up further from your F and S bombs to deliver a few choice C bombs matters little. It wasn’t impressive to start with and escalating matters certainly doesn’t sell it any better.

In effect Sausage Party is a far less successful take on the Deadpool agenda; spice up something perceived as intended for mass consumption by adding an unsavoury dusting of filth. But Sausage Party has no other selling point to speak of, making this purely an exercise in alienation.

So it continues when we come to the characters and the overarching situation. Frank (Seth Rogen) is a horny frankfurter hellbent on penetrating Brenda’s (Kristen Wiig) weirdly voluptuous bun (the misogyny throughout is about as appetising as a breadstick). A chaotic and stupid set of events sees them separated from the rest of the food shop which heads out the supermarket doors. Pursued around the aisles by a douche called Douche (an insufferable Nick Kroll), Frank and Brenda encounter foods from around the globe, allowing Sausage Party to take an international tour of token societal stereotypes. Of course the German foods are Nazis etc. Wait, how does Nazism and its historical context even function in this environment? Best not to think about it.

It would all be genuinely offensive if it weren’t so lazy in its delivery. So lowest common denominator. The script goes for the most obvious joke at every possible opportunity, and none of it really adds up to funny or even shocking because you can see it coming a mile off. At best it induces a weary eye-roll. The thought process goes something like this: “They’re going to do this obvious off colour thing here aren’t they? Yep, they’re going to do it. Here it comes. Yup, now it’s happening. Now it’s done. Next?”

If anything it comes off as desperate, and the few jokes that raise the corners of the mouth just a little are the ones that lay off the sleazoid aggression (and this film is so aggressive) in favour of something else. Hands down the film’s two most wryly constructed moments are those that riff cheekily on other movies. Early on there’s a downright weird take on Saving Private Ryan (in itself an oddly inappropriate and crass choice) while better still at the other end of the picture is an inspired wink to Terminator 2: Judgement Day complete with licensed music cue. Wrongheaded or not, the playfulness of these moments suggest that this entire ordeal could have been a lot more fun if it had truly been conceived as a labour of love and not just a one-note punchline.

Then there’s the ironically preachy anti-religion angle that the film pummels the audience over the head with. In essence Frank comes to realise that the faith they’ve all had has been a lie to keep everybody in order, and he becomes bullishly hellbent on exposing it. It makes both him and the film gravely unappealing as neither seems concerned with the ramification of challenging beliefs so aggressively. There’s no room in Sausage Party for considered discourse. Of course there isn’t. The movie attacks it’s position with the hostility of a YouTube comments section, where middle ground cannot exist. Sure, Frank comes to realise that a more deft approach might score him more points in the long run, but in the end it’s all about the win.

And, as an idea cooked up over a bong is inevitably inclined, it finds it has nowhere to go. What’s the alternative? Sausage Party sure as hell doesn’t know, so it bottles it with a nihilistic, overlong and tonally unsavoury food-on-food fuckfest before bafflingly opening an unacknowledged trapdoor in the narrative and quickly disappearing from view. Great.

There’s borderline nothing to recommend here, and any short-lived shock value at seeing an anthropomorphised used condom gagging on jizz will have disappeared by the second viewing should anyone feel they have the stamina to return. Sausage Party fails at every turn, and while yes, it may be pacy, it’s a pacy torrent of worthless shit, one that’s approximately two decades past it’s sell-by date.

Those poor, poor animators.

Score:  1

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